How to Use an Empathy Map to Transform Design Thinking

Aug 7, 2022 | Work, Workshops

Empathy mapping is the starting point to better designs, better products and happier customers. Read on to discover what empathy mapping is and empathy map examples.


Designing better products all starts with understanding who your customers are, what they want, what they need and what they desire.

The starting point for getting that level of knowledge is an empathy map.

What is an empathy map?

Do you want to understand your customers better? Then an empathy map can help you really empathise and understand your customer’s mindset. It is the first step to changing perspective from company-side to user-centred design. 

Empathy maps are used by UX consultants to help you put your customer at the centre of your thinking. It is a crucial part of human-centred design. It shifts the focus from the product and its attributes to what people want and need. 

It is a visual aid that captures a full picture about customer attitudes, beliefs and challenges. 

Empathy map examples

Empathy maps typically divide up your customer into quadrants to understand what they say, feel, think and do.

However, I prefer to start the team describing who they think their customers are. Just to make sure that there is a shared understanding about who the customer even is – across departments in a company. Then asking: What makes them happy? What are their main concerns? What are they seeing? What are they saying? What have they been hearing? What are they thinking and feeling? 

Below is an empathy map example where the company has used the four quadrants, but also added in frustrations and motivations underneath too.

You can even add in an avatar image or real image to help you conceptualise your customer better. 

There are lots of examples of empathy maps that you can find via an image search online.

Empathy map examples.
A visual overview of empathy map examples online.

Why is empathy mapping so valuable?

Empathy is crucial to help ensure you are developing user-centred products because it helps you focus on the user’s perspective and their “jobs to be done” and sets you up to build out your user journey maps after this.

Only by understanding your customer’s pain points and gain points – and by getting into their perspective and no longer thinking from your organisation’s perspective can you truly create value.

So stop thinking about what you want to sell, what you want to offer. Stop focusing on how to create a business case with great numbers in a spreadsheet. 

First off, you need to start with the right focus. 

An empathy map will help you:

  • Acts as a single point of truth for all departments involved in the design, build, deployment and marketing
  • Creates a narrative that will better inform your UX design
  • Gets stakeholders aligned on the assumptions you’re making about your users
  • Consolidates user data and customer research into a simple visual map
  • Develops a quick view of what your users are thinking and feeling

How to create your empathy map

You need a template that will help you capture four key areas. Say, think/feel, hear and see.


  • How do users talk about your product? 
  • What sort of things do they say? 
  • What is the feedback you’re getting e.g. through your support team
  • What thoughts are they having?
  • What are their concerns and worries?
  • What do your users feel during or after the experience?


  • What do they see in the marketplace and in your product? 
  • What are your customers watching or experiencing in their environment?


  • What have they been hearing? From friends/family, reviewers or the (social) media?

To be truly effective all stakeholders should be involved. This includes sales and marketing, product, engineering, services and management. 

A mapping session should happen well before any ideation sessions or requirements gathering.

And it’s purpose is to create a shared understanding, before jumping to conclusions or straight into solution and feature design, before even starting to understand the problem space fully.

Bring together any qualitative research, customer personas you have built already and any other data or customer feedback information. Empathy maps can be built based on assumptions, but they are even more valuable if you include existing insights into your users.

How to use an Empathy Map as part of a wider User Journey Mapping Workshop

1. Use an empathy map as your prep-task

An empathy map is a great way to get everyone on the same page, and have a joint starting point.

It also helps to get all your stakeholders thinking about and focus on the same problem space.

Moreover, using the map as a prep-task means that whether remote or on-site you and your team can jump straight into the more complex task of User journey mapping – because you’re all coming prepared and aren’t starting “cold”.

2. Gather existing data

Make sure your team reviews or brings existing data to this exercise. Anything from surveys, to interviews, personas, 1:1 conversations with a customer, and support queries works.
And it’s worth noting – that this exercise also works for making in-house processes better – when reflecting on how another department works with you, for example how design and development are collaborating and working together.

3. Plan your User journey  mapping workshop

Once you’ve gathered together your data, start planning how you are going to run your User Journey mapping session. 

Who will you invite? How long will it be? 

Have a clear structure of how you will run the session. If you have a remote team, then use a Miro board or Miro Empathy Map Template to start your workshop and use digital post-its.

Office workers looking at a glass white board with post-its. Empathy mapping. Ux my dear

4. Use a facilitator

With buy-in from management, a facilitator can also act as a liaison between departments and encourage stakeholders to attend. 

The facilitator can also help moderate the User Journey mapping session. They can help clarify terms and keep the session on track and prevent people going off-topic or disengaging.  

They can also help tease out information and help people explore topics throughout. A facilitator can also help to prevent groupthink.

A facilitator can also ensure that every department is heard thereby building a complete picture of the customer and their journey.

Summarise the results

A facilitator can help provide a summary of the session and check that everyone is in agreement. They can then share the findings with the wider organisation.

What should you do after you’ve completed an empathy map?

Once you’ve got your customer’s mindset clearer and agreement across departments you will have a much fuller and highly valuable picture. 

Once you have this common starting point, you can then deepen your understanding by digging deeper into the full user journeys.

At this stage (which can all be done in the same workshop), you will get a complete understanding of pain points, gain points and the opportunity space.

For more information about empathy mapping and empathy map examples, try reading David Gray’s book, Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers and Changemakers.

If you want to develop an empathy map for your customers and need help bringing your team together, then get in touch. I can act as a facilitator for empathy mapping and user journey mapping to help you get more clarity and design better products and services. 

Book your 30-minute free consultation, and we can take it from there.